President Duterte submits himself to a security check as he conducts a surprise inspection of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 early yesterday.
Duterte vows end to NAIA flight delays
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid flight cancellations and hours-long delays at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport due to a lightning alert on Sunday, President Duterte has vowed to come up with a solution to NAIA flight delays  within a month.

Duterte conducted a surprise inspection of the NAIA Terminal 2 early yesterday after hearing reports about flight delays and cancellations, according to a Palace statement.

“President Duterte talked to airline and NAIA officials regarding the cancellations and delays to know whether there are flight diversions and if affected passengers are given incentives to ease their inconvenience,” the statement said.

A Philippine Airlines manager and a NAIA 2 airport duty manager briefed Duterte on the flight delays and enumerated actions being done to bring the situation back to normal.

The Palace said Duterte had discussed how flight aberrations could be minimized and what actions could be done by the government to solve the problem in the long term but did not provide specifics.

Duterte talked to passengers and apologized to them for the inconvenience caused by the disruptions.

“The President vowed to come up with a remedy within a month,” the statement said.

In an advisory released yesterday, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said NAIA was experiencing a succession of flight arrivals as a result of an over two-hour suspension of ground movement for ramp personnel and flights.

The suspension was attributed to a lightning red alert that took effect from 6:40 p.m. until 9:15 p.m. last Sunday.

MIAA said it was working with airlines to address the situation so that normal flight operations could resume as soon as possible.

“To all affected passengers, we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that the situation has caused you and we humbly seek for your understanding,” MIAA said. 

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said a strategic plan to resolve delays of flights at NAIA is set to come out soon, following another incident at the country’s main international gateway on Sunday evening, which resulted in a number of delayed flights.

After the President’s inspection at the NAIA, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade immediately met with aviation and airport officials to formulate a roadmap in addressing various issues in the air sector.

The DOTr said the roadmap is in line with the directive of Duterte to provide a comfortable life for Filipinos, which in this case are the air-riding public.

According to the agency, the roadmap will be presented to Malacañang first, with the goal of it being released immediately.

“The unannounced visit of President Duterte to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the wee hours this morning is an expression and manifestation of his deep concern for the welfare of the air-riding public,” the agency said.

A total of 54 flights were delayed and seven were diverted to the Clark, Pampanga airport as a result of the lighting red alert issued on Sunday night, according to MIAA.

Present during Duterte’s airport inspection were MIAA general manager Ed Monreal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general Capt. Jim Sydiongco, Senator-elect Christopher Go, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Davao-based businessman Sammy Uy and Metro Manila police director Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.

Romualdez said Congress could do its part in helping ease passenger congestion by increasing funds for the airport’s needed upgrade. 

“Having seen the disruption myself, I appeal to my fellow legislators to cross party-lines and help government address the problem at the NAIA. Congress must act fast to seek funding for the rehabilitation and upgrades of our airports,” he said. 

The President spoke to two PAL airport officers who explained that several flights on June 9 experienced delays in departure as well as in the deplaning of passengers solely as a result of a lightning “red alert” issued by airport authorities. Such red alerts in the midst of a thunderstorm with lightning strikes are mandatory for the safety of airport personnel and passengers.

According to PAL, Duterte appeared to be generally satisfied on the actions taken by PAL management to address the concerns of affected travelers.

Passengers of cancelled flights were rebooked on next available flights and several transit, elderly and PWD passengers were provided hotel accommodations. Passengers of arriving flights that were diverted to Clark International Airport were provided land transfers to Manila. 

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Resolution No. 49, which requires airlines to complete the deplaning of domestic flights by the third hour and the deplaning of international flights by the fourth hour, includes an exception on “no ground movement during terminal lightning alerts” for vital safety reasons. 

In compliance with PAL procedures and in line with current DOTr/CAAP and CAB regulations, PAL provided food and water, as far as practicable, to passengers who were not deplaned. 

PAL and Cebu Pacific (CEB) seek the understanding of passengers on the need for the airlines to carry out certain procedures, including any necessary cessation of ground operations, to ensure compliance with safety regulations, emphasizing that safety will always be the cornerstone of PAL and CEB operations.

As a result of the weather disturbance, some 78 international and domestic flights were delayed in four terminals and nine were diverted to Clark International. – With Rudy Santos, Delon Porcalla, Richmond Mercurio

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